9 Sep 2017

Tsunami alert for most of Pacific after 8.1 quake off Mexico

1:54 am on 9 September 2017
The earthquake struck near the coast of Chiapas, in southern Mexico. A tsunami alert has been issued for most of the Pacific islands region.

The earthquake struck near the coast of Chiapas, in southern Mexico. A tsunami alert has been issued for most of the Pacific islands region. Photo: Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre

A tsunami alert was issued for most of the Pacific region late on Friday, with waves of between 30 centimetres and a metre possible.

The warning followed an 8.1 magnitude earthquake off the southeast coast of Mexico, at a depth of 33 kilometres, according to the United States Geological Survey. The extent of damage there is yet to emerge.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said tsunami waves had been observed close to the earthquake's epicentre, and a warning had been issued for most of the region.

It said tsunami waves reaching 0.3 to 1 metre above the tide level were possible for the coasts of:

- American Samoa

- Cook Islands

- Fiji

- French Polynesia

- Kiribati

- Samoa

- Tokelau

- Tuvalu


- Wallis and Futuna

Tsunami waves of less than 0.3 metres were possible for:

- Chuuk, in Federated States of Micronesia

- Guam

- Hawaii

- Johnston Atoll

- the Kermadec Islands

- Kosrae, in Federated States of Micronesia

- Marshall Islands

- Midway Island

- Nauru

- New Caledonia

- Niue

- Northern Marianas

- Palau

- Papua New Guinea

- Pitcairn Islands

- Pohnpei

- Solomon Islands

- Tonga

- Wake Island

- Yap Atoll

Despite the seemingly small height, tsunami waves are backed by a wall of water with immense force, and come in a series of waves over time span of between five minutes to an hour, the centre said.

It said people in the affected countries, which is most of the Pacific Islands region, should heed the warnings of local authorities, as government agencies were responsible for the threatened areas.

People in the affected areas were advised to stay alert for information.

In the Cook Islands, a police spokesperson, Inspector John Strickland, said a text message had been sent across the country alerting people to the possibility of tsunami waves, but on current advice, evacuation orders were not being considered. However, he said people should stay away from the ocean.

"So far, so good," he said in an interview early on Saturday morning. "We're just monitoring so far. We've got the message out and we'll see if we need to do anything further."

Mr Strickland said authorities were monitoring the situation across the country's islands and would contact the islands directly if the situation changed. He said waves were not expected to reach the Cook Islands until early on Saturday morning.

For people in the Pacific Islands region, RNZ International will broadcast tsunami warnings when they become available on shortwave across the region. Find out how to listen here.